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April 28, 2017  Illinois Policy

Credit rating agencies have warned Illinois’ credit could slide into junk territory if the legislative session ends in May without a budget deal to get the state’s finances back on track.

The state of Illinois’ financial condition is just one month shy of being designated “junk” by the nation’s credit agencies. The agencies have warned that if Illinois doesn’t resolve its budget issues by May 31 – the end of the state legislative session – it may be punished with more downgrades. It’s quite possible the agencies could downgrade Illinois bonds to junk status.

A junk rating of Illinois’ bonds isn’t just some wonky financial designation that only affects politicians. It has real consequences for the people of Illinois, from the most vulnerable to the wealthiest.

Illinois’ political class is to blame for the state’s financial collapse. Lawmakers have been unwilling to enact the spending reforms to stop the bleed and the economic reforms to grow the state’s tax base.

Falling to ‘junk’

Illinois, which already has the lowest credit rating of any state, will become the nation’s first junk-rated state if the rating agencies follow through on their downgrade warnings. The only remotely similar companion in this disgrace will be Puerto Rico, the junk-rated American territory that’s suffering a deep crisis of its own.

illinois credit rating

A junk rating would be another blow to Illinois’ already low reputation, further discouraging investment, job creators and the in-migration of new residents. It would also hurt Illinois financially and push up borrowing costs, taking even more funds away from core government programs and social service providers.

The state’s fall to junk credit status has been a long time coming. For decades, Illinois politicians have ignored important issues, passed fake reforms and papered over Illinois’ structural problems with tax hikes.

Lawmakers haven’t passed a real balanced budget since 2001. A lack of real pension reform has driven Illinois’ pension debt to $130 billion, up nearly $100 billion from a decade ago. And inadequate property tax reform and tax hikes have shrunk Illinois’ tax base, both in people and dollars.

As a result, Illinois has been downgraded 19 times by the three major rating agencies since 2009 alone, according to the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability. Illinois’ drop to junk status would be its 20th downgrade, assuming a double-notch downgrade by just one agency.

illinois credit rating

The state’s decline is part of a larger story of financial collapse in Illinois. The city of Chicago is already junk-rated. Chicago Public Schools is even deeper in junk territory. And Illinois’ public universities are now facing additional credit downgrades as well. Northeastern Illinois University was recently downgraded further into junk status by the ratings agencies as part of a major review of all universities by Standard & Poor’s.


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Without major reforms, such as moving state workers to 401(k)-style plans and comprehensive property tax reform, things will only get worse for both Illinoisans and the economy.

Illinois needs a real plan

Many politicians and pundits and those in the media think that Illinois needs a deal, any deal, to end the current crisis.

But Illinois’ past is littered with bad deals enacted in the midst of a crisis. They’re what got Illinois into its current crisis.

Former Gov. Jim Edgar’s 1996 pension ramp was a disaster that Illinoisans continue to pay for today. Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s $10 billion pension bond deliberately avoided addressing pension reform and simply left Illinoisans with more debt. And former Gov. Pat Quinn’s copycat deals borrowed another $7 billion. Then Quinn’s temporary income tax hike allowed politicians to raise spending, leaving Illinois on a budgetary cliff when that tax hike expired.

Every one of those deals had something in common – they all avoided fixing Illinois’ structural spending problems.

The Senate’s proposed “grand bargain” does the same. It will only perpetuate Illinois’ dysfunction, something that Illinoisans simply cannot afford.

A real plan – and a real balanced budget – must solve those structural problems. If not, Illinois won’t be able to avoid an eventual junk bond rating or get off the path to bankruptcy.

TAGS: Chicago, COGFA, credit rating, Moody’s Investor Service, pensions, Standard & Poor’s

Source: Will County News

Robots – What’s inside is valuable and important

Robots – What’s inside is valuable and important


There’s a lot of talk about the coming disruption of the Robot Age.

But the thing is, robots are here. They’ve been here for a while now, even though most of us don’t see them on a day to day basis. Finding them may be easier than just looking at an auto production line, which is the standard media example of robotics in action.

However, that’s the standard because automation is at the heart of robotics, so a “robot” might not be a machine that looks somewhat human. It may be a complicated machine that can replace what humans have been doing.

For example, I recently wrote a couple articles on the transition of dangerous manual labor in the oil and coal industries. Basically, automation is taking over the jobs that used to be the domain of brave workers risking life and limb in a mine or on a rig.

For the companies, they now have invested in technologies rather than personnel and those technologies operate rain or shine, with no attitudes and no sick days. These new technologies are essentially robots.

Amazon.com’s warehouses are also full of robots doing a complex dance among all the products filling orders and getting them to our door within a day or two after placing the order.

The military has been using umanned vehicles in the air, land and sea for more than a decade now. And these machines are getting to the point where they are becoming fully autonomous, able to change course or altitude depending upon the conditions they encounter.

So, yes it’s the Robot Age.

But underneath the robotics is what’s most important — the brain.

How these robots carry out their duties is far more important than what they do, in the end. The brains of these machines are what make them valuable and important.

Many years ago, I was talking to a friend about the growing demand in the U.S. military for unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs). I was looking at iRobot, a company that is better known for its household robotic vacuums, pool cleaners and gutter cleaners.

It had begun building UGVs and I thought this would be an interesting play on the sector since it a focused player. A colleague of mine then told me his father, a physics professor at a major university, knew one of the founders. And then he said, “The thing that really makes these unique isn’t their build but their programming.”

That was my “Aha!” moment. How to program these robots to figure things out on the fly was what set them apart. And that hasn’t changed.

What has changed however, is that processing power has increased significantly so these machines can now process much more information, much more quickly.

This is where artificial intelligence (AI) comes in. Building a self-aware machine has long been a theme of science fiction. But now it’s much closer to science fact.

Computers can now read, talk, play games, give directions (and adapt those directions if you miss your turn) and recognize people by their voices.

I got a Google Assistant for Christmas. I usually use it as a timer, or to check the weather or settle some disputed trivia among family members. But it has other more complex tools as well. I can ask it what my day looks like and it will assimilate information from a number of different places to tell me about the weather, my schedule, traffic, curated news, etc.

And now, Google has just upgraded the Assistant’s brain to recognize different voices and match them to separate accounts. Nowadays that doesn’t sound too earth shattering… but given this is a $100 device, that kind of technology is pretty stunning.

AI is what is powering the Robot Age. It behind driverless cars and the Internet of Things (IoT). IBM is using its AI, Watson to do taxes for H&R Block customers. It’s not coming, it’s here.

How to play AI

Your best choices for getting a toe — or foot — into this water is to stick with the big players that are making it happen at the fundamental levels.

For example, Intel missed the big move to mobile, but it’s redoubled its efforts in AI and the Internet of Things. It has the advantage of being able to deploy huge amounts of chips that are reliable and state of the art. Smaller players may have more interesting designs or abilities but they can’t scale up as reliably, so they will have trouble finding enough customers to grow.

No doubt some will succeed, but Intel won’t be left begging. And it’s already making a very successful transition out of the desktop and traditional server markets and into the new sectors.

On the implementation side, look to Amazon. It has its hands in just about everything at this point, but automation is at the foundation of its business. AI is going to be a key factor in taking this efficiency to the next level.

And if you’re still looking for a smaller company that may have some leverage growth, look at iRobot or AeroVironment. Both have been pioneers of the Robot Age and have deep and loyal roots on the military and homeland security side of things. As border security becomes a bigger issue these firms will be winners.

Source: Will County News

Register today for Homer 33C’s Arts In Action Summer Workshops

News Release

Homer CCSD 33C

Goodings Grove   Luther J. Schilling   William E. Young   William J. Butler

Hadley Middle   Homer Jr. High


Contact: Charla Brautigam, Communications/Public Relations Manager

cbrautigam@homerschools.org | 708-226-7628


For Immediate Release:

May 1, 2017


Plan ahead for summer fun

Register today for Homer 33C’s Arts In Action Summer Workshops


Area children will once again have an opportunity to work with local artists at Homer School District 33C’s annual Arts in Action Summer Workshops.


Participants will have fun drawing crazy pictures with patterns; making bracelets and earrings from Czech crystals; or creating animals from modeling clay.

Each enrichment class will be held in the Community Room at Village Hall, 14240 W. 151st Street — just east of the Homer Public Library. Classes begin Monday, July 10, and conclude Wednesday, July 12.


“Arts in Action has enriched our children’s lives for over 15 years,” said program coordinator Cyn O’Brien, “giving thousands of students an appreciation and hands-on experience working with local artists from our surrounding communities.”


The cost to participate is $15 for Homer 33C students and $20 for students who do not attend Homer 33C schools.

Click here for a full listing of workshops as well as registration instructions.


The deadline to register is Friday, June 30.


Source: Will County News




Many of you know that SB1657 – a bill to curtail retail firearm sales – passed the Illinois Senate last week and now moves on to the Illinois House for concurrence.  If SB1657 is passed into law, here is what will happen:

1.  Hundreds of shooting sports entrepreneurs will be forced out of business.  Among them will be gun shops, ranges, and gunsmiths.  As a result, you may have to drive hundreds of miles to exercise your ever-dwindling right to keep and bear arms.

2.  Increased dealer overhead costs linked to the cost of compliance with the bill will raise the retail price of new guns by up to $300 or more.  Essentially, this bill places a tax on your constitutional rights.

3.  It will be illegal for you to sell your gun collection without first spending many of thousands of dollars for a state license.

4.  Anyone who purchases a firearm will be subjected to warrantless electronic surveillance by the authorities.  Additionally, personal information of all gun buyers will be gathered and electronically indexed by state agencies.


The primary sponsor of SB1657 is Senator Don Harmon.  Harmon is a left-wing radical anti-constitutionalist whose district is in Oak Park.  Although Harmon is based in Illinois, he takes his instructions – and quite a bit of money – from former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg.  Bloomberg has assigned Harmon with the task of dismantling private firearm ownership in Illinois.  The Bloomberg/Harmon team will succeed in stripping you of your rights if you do not stand up this week and take action.


1.  Contact your State Representative at his/her DISTRICT office.  It is important that you telephone the district office because the House is in recess this week.  Politely tell the person who answers the phone that you are a law-abiding firearm owner and that you are opposed to SB1657 and that you hope the representative will vote “NO” on the bill when it comes to the floor.  If you do not know who your state representative is, please conduct a search by clicking this link: Illinois State Board of Elections District Lookup

2.  If you’re able to visit your state rep’s local district office, then do so and deliver that same message.

3.  Pass this alert on to your friends and family and ask them to contact their representatives as well.

4.  Please post this alert to any and all Internet blogs, bulletin boards or social media sites to which you may belong.



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Source: Will County News

Trump News May 1, 2017


Today we celebrate Law Day and reflect upon our great heritage of liberty, justice, and equal protection under the law. Our country is great because our people govern themselves through the rule of law as embodied in our Constitution. Let us give thanks that we live in a land of liberty safeguarded by our constitutional rights and protected by the rule of law. Under President Donald J. Trump’s leadership, the partnership between law and liberty has never been stronger.


  • 11:30AM: President Trump signs a Law Day Proclamation
  • 11:50AM: President Trump drops by the Independent Community Bankers Association meeting


  • 12:30PM: President Trump has lunch with Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and Secretary of Defense James Mattis
  • 1:30PM: President Trump meets with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson


Select your favorite photo from President Trump’s First 100 Days. The winning photo will be featured on whitehouse.gov.
See the Collection and Select Your Favorite Here


President Trump makes remarks at the National Rifle Association Leadership Forum.
Read More

President Trump signs an Executive Order on an America-First Offshore Energy Strategy.
Read More
Read the Executive Order
Watch Video

President Trump signs an Executive Order on the Establishment of the American Technology Council.
Read the Executive Order

President Trump signs Executive Orders on trade.
Read the Executive Order on Establishment of Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy
Read the Executive Order Addressing Trade Agreement Violations and Abuses


President Trump to Open Up America’s Energy Potential.
Read More

Vice President Pence participates in the swearing-in for the Secretary of Labor, Alexander Acosta.
Read More
Watch Video

Check out a 360-degree view of the State Dining Room:




Read the press gaggle with Press Secretary Sean Spicer here.

Today, a press briefing will be held at 1:30PM ET in the White House Briefing Room with Press Secretary Sean Spicer. Watch it LIVE here.


  • Washington Post: President Trump: In my first 100 days, I kept my promise to Americans
    Read More
  • The Hill: Pence christens USS Indiana attack submarine
    Read More

Source: Will County News